tv Tavis Smiley PBS January 6, 2010 12:00am-12:30am EST
tavis: good evening from l angeles. i'm tavis smiley. night a conversation wit one of the biggest names i all of classical musi yo-yo ma,n celebration of h brilliant 30-year reer he is o with a box set that features his entire calog. it features 90 c.d.'s in all including his very popula holiday collection,songs of joy and peace." later on we'll he a peormance from the 15-time grammy winner. we'rglad you could join us. yo-yoa coming up.
there are so many things th wal-mart is loing forward to doing, like helping pele live bett, but mostly we're looking forward to helping bld stronger cmunities and relationships because with yr help, the be is yet to come. >> nionwide insurance proudly supports tavis smile tavis annationwide insurance working to impro financial literacy and the economic empowermt that comes with it. ♪ natnwide is on your de ♪ >> and by contributis to your pbs station from viewers le you. thank you. [captiing made possible by kcet public television] tas: it is a pleasureny time to welcome yo- m to this program. the legendary classal artist is out wh a career
entireecording calog. don't believe me? bam! 90 c.d.'s in all including his mo recent, a terrific holiday collection called "sos of joy and pce." the ll box set is lled "yo-yo ma, 30 years touchdown x." here he is withyou couldn't be cuter with diana crull. ♪ you'll attract allhe relatives years and years and what will they tell me extly what will they tell me they will say you couldn't be nicer couldn't be sweeter couldn't be better couldn'te as a matter
coul't be cuter baby there you are ♪ tavis: always love the back story here. whilthat clip was playing, i was leang in talking to yo-yo getting the back storyn this. yowere telling me thatou and ana crull, brilliant artist though shes, you had never done anythg prior? >> absolutely. i just loved her music and asked her and sh said yes. she chose the song. she thought of her little twin kids sging itouldn't be cuter but the person that brought mento this way of working with her was john clathe clayton, felw string player. john, this ishat is so important. for me to do anything throught my life, it was a guide tt would bring into this music or that musicr into that
country. someone special who kno the inside of something and that, i can'say how important it is and jn,or thatession was my -- iall him big bro and he gns his little textsig bro. m little bro. he took my the hand and said y this. do ts vis: do you take -- t you point abt john clayton, do you take direction well? you are a genius to all o us around the world. i'm wonring how wel you te direction. oh, boy. i n b incredibly ubborn and willfu vis: you? why? you're so soft. >> but i do take direction well. i know how much i don't knoso basically you know,ith this boset, i look at this and never really look back at what i do because you know, i'm focus on the moment, as are you, but in terms ofooking at what happened over 30 years, what struck m about what these 90
c.d. mean is not just that the box is big or heavy. tavi although it is. it used tbe a smaller box. but anyway, it was actually the sic is the tip of the iceberg of all the dee friendships and the intense relationships a the people that guidede from isaac stern mall well ax. you name every chapte of my life, the were peoe that actual held out a hand and sa come this way. this is the way itught to be and i did take direction. i think i s -- i may not be at smart but i'm smart enough to know when really need help and boy, i need help aot of the time. tavis: this box set- this b set comes wh -- as i said 90 c.d.'s, everythi you have ever record but it also comes with a beautil book.
there is a beautif text inse this when got this box a i got a chance -- i devoured this thing the minute it aived at my house. i started going through i page by page and to the point you made a moment ago. i was azed. u started so young. we'll talk about your childhood in just a second. i realized to your earlier point that y had a chae to wor with every nius out there how blessed do you feel that you have been ableo work with -- i mean everybo. everybody who is anybody in clsical music, youorked with. well, you get tbe my age, you work with aot of people. i think everyby works with a lot of people b i do feel incredibly blessedecause i think whenou work with sobody who is fabulous, usuay, and i tnk usually, that person, you kno we talke out mentori and guiding, they are genous in tmsf
helping someone younger to undersnd something and that's incredible. so i have a lot of wistful memori but there are also some wonderful, extradinary people o have written quotes, one by the na of smiley, i thi. [laughr] he put a quote i there and talked abouteart-to-heart mmunication and i think tha is also a very, verymportant thingn terms of recnizing that we do have inner liv and that when those inner selves connect, we get a deeper understanding of onenother and so thankfor the quote by the way. tavi i was trying find it. you know what says. i meant every -- oh, it is you. th smile you you were refeing to.
yo-ys people asked me for a short quot to go in the book. here is what i sai yo-yo ma i a gius, perd. there iso debate about that. t to my mind his talent is not his greate gift. rather his le for humanity i wh i'most humbled by. i beeve that what com from theearteaches the heart. yo-y ma has a heart fl of grace ana soul generated by love. whenou listen to his music, u're hearing his heart, a i meant i >> y are extraordinaryly kind. i ve to say one of the things that i love about what you d is that you try and go broader and look at, you know, domain and the state of the union that y do, i think isuch a great role del because i think i any main, whether it is you know, cello playingomain, we all are interdependent.
we all need help. and i tnk, but why do we do that? i think we do it becse we are ying figure out what iis that we do that is important thatomain and how i fits in the re of e world and one of the things that i think is great about music i that you can actually explore the world thugh the vocabulary of sound and y can get to inner worlds. u can get to plac that are far away, in distan as well as in time and i thin what you do with trying to bring communities together, to actuay look at e total picture, i thi is unbelievably iortant. tavis:ou're very kind, as always. let me go back to yr cldhood if i can. i want to startith the ne, which is so cool. yo-yo. tell me about the name. well, actually funnily eugh yo-yo mes friend in chinese.
we can talk about smiley, too. [laughter] but tually one othe things thatame on to me later onn life. i was in my late 40's. i'm 54. iealized tn, only then that my real passion in lifes people. and so music, which i have been dog all of these yea. i've been playing cello now for 50 yea, was a gat way to explore people relationshipsnd that's why -- tt's what i care about. tavi the other thing about urackground and yr childhoodhat is fascinating for me. i will let you tell the story. ur mother and father who named you yyo met in an interesting sort of way. yes? >> they first met when my father was a teacher in university but then they met again in paris and
both of them wer students, musictudents and my mothe u know, those ships that left om asia to goo europend she s on the same boat as my father's sister so they m essentially as immigrant students and stayed ther for a long time and tn we came to the states whenhere was a headmaster oa school looking for a music teachernd met my dad and said we want y to come to the states. if thehasn't m, i would be french. [laughte tas: you played toour early point. u played cello 50 years. it was not yourirst or even second itrument. how did you find your way to the cello? >> by process of eliminati. i play violin.
i squked, squked, horrible. i tried to pla double bass. at, too big. the cello w the comprome. i stuc with it. i had to prise my parents. you n't keep on switching instruments. we don't have the resourceso do this. and so that was the instrumen and i actually -- and iis not, you know, you talk about gius or talent or whatever. i think there is a physical -- therwas some kind of connection that i hawith the cello that i didn'tave on the violin or thepiano or any other instrument and it came somethinthat i could do well. and that's -- s musical talent could me many, man different things. r me, there is an insumental talent but the there is sor of the qualityf -- of emotional unrstanding of things. that'something that where a
lot of guysave helped me. tavis: you a s modest and have always beenhat way, at least as long as i'venown you. you say you have found sometng in the cello that you can do well. you don't do itell. you are a genius at it. you trieout a number of oer inruments and by process of eliminatn as a compromise you fi yourself playing the cello and end up bng the best at i in the world. what have yo takens you have gotten older from that proce of how you fou your way in your lane to your gift? >> think onef the most important thing i learned from my parents is the idea tha you can never kno everything and at life is a constant process of connuous learng. and probab applied t the cello, or applied to a value thatou know, you want to work toward something tt is bigger
than youelf. so it is really not about cel playing. it is about cello and then music and then people, younow. so it is always about something larger and bader but then you take it back to the specific. how are you going to express at. onof the big questions that- that i get asked a lot is you know, how much do you practice? so weike to quanty things. oh, he practices 20 minutes or 40 minutes. , but i usuly answer by saying well, you know, how much of t time have i taught about i should be praicing rather than i want to practe. that's an internal thing and how can we get to you have to do th to you wanto because then the time that you spe is rely important. tavis: i'm not goingo ask you how much you practice. >> i depends.
ery day is different. tavis: i am curious about and this requires youo set your -- aside f just a sond. i'm rious about technique and whatt is that you think you do that makes youust a little bit different, a little t better, a lile bit more unique than all e other cellists around the world. it is not just the praice, i assume it is not jt the practice. doou have an idea what that "it" is that makesou just a littleit different? >> i think looking for the kd ofnspiration that is needed at every stagin life. fit of all, i don't think i'm better. i'm different from other peoe and i thin you know, gabriel who st played with me, 17, is a total master buthat is going to be interesting is howe is going to fure out his life ov the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years. at i was lky and where i
feel incredibly blessed, i me isaac stern when i was like 5 or 6 and moveto the statessomew i learned from him and one of thehings he taught . he said it is t notes that matt. it is what hapns in between thnotes. how you get to a note? what is behind thanote. if you start asking those kis ofuestions, then you'll find answers along the y. usually not immediately. three ars down the line we could be talking and s something and suddenly, oh, maybe that's what's so portant. i think those -- over and over again, i met piedmont like emanuelle who said to me, you kn, you really shld spend the amou of time. it doe't matter how you practice but when you're plangñ the conct you should spend the amount of time it taketo find
music ansomehow get involved in it during that day. at was an incredible message. it is from a friend and lleague, he thout he should share that value wi me so i took that in. various people wou say things and at just made -- bobby mcferrin used to sayo a lot of people u want to keep the child side you so as you grow older, you have responsilities but you never want tlose the sense of play. n't take yourself too seriously. don't berrogant because then you can't ally play creatively for people. so i think being on a fla ire arky where it is one-on-one -- flat hierarchy where it is one-on-one. not because yore older or bett or whatever and really trying to figure out w you're talking . those things mter because then u keep improving. tavis: there are two things i want to back and talk about.
u mention gabriel. we're gog to meet him in just a second. you will see this you 17-year-old gabel playing with yo-yo ma. 17ears ol you can see how good he is in about five minutes. you mentioned gabri a moment o. i was watching you -- the o of you inehearsal on theortar in my dressing -- on the monit my dressle room and i could see u giving se itruction. how do you typicly engage with young people? >> well, it is very sple. have a wonrful colleague who arts the sphinx competition. a nationwide program and ty actually support young musians, jr. high, high school, african-amerin, latino
heritage so that they become part of the classical music faly becausehere is -- there shouldn't be an exclusion becausthis is one aa. all eas should be open everybody, you know. d so and it was recommended that hey, maybe you cou do something with him. i said fantast and what's so great is i know who he studies with. he is fulous. his tcher in chicago is fabulous and there is thi shorthand when -- an it is not about age but you do something. u have some similar values and immediately it wks. and it is not about instruction its more like let'sry a couple of things andet's see how you react to this so we uld feel where our edges and comft levels might be for something th we might do togeth. you know, t's just talk and
th the music that comes out i really the tip of the icerg en though that's the thing that we hear. all at other stuff is sharing so of you know, what is yr life like? whats my life like? this is what it is like for m what iit likeraveling with a cello. all of the things th we encounter. en what emerges is now let's do something togetr and it was a thrill. >> i was watchg the two of you actice and you'll see it in just a second t i was sayin myself, i suspect at some point years down the road i'm going to get a call fm gabriel when he is a huge cellist, star around the world asking fothe rights to usthe footage of he and yo-yo whenoulayed on my show. gabriel,ou can use that any time you want f a small fee. no. just teang. just tsing. the other question i want to
ask, when ialked on the set watching you guys inhe dressing room rehearse and you had already m everybodyn the stage. yoare introcing me to people on my set who you have met who are waiting to s you in ts interview and is performance d i looked at y as i always do and it baffles me how you have remained as humble as you are. all this success, all of this acclaim and your humility is what i rev in. i don't know what you're talkinabout because i think all of this -- this a physical manifestation of something. it is wonderful. i'm so glad it happened but actually y are the person you are all the little thing you do. tavis: right. >> and that's -- wwant to get along. have to get along. it is a good thing to g along
and there ia lot of joy that happens when we do get along and that's - i think that is - i think it is that simple. tavis: it ishat simple. i've been doing this for you ars now. it is re. re, think, when you meet somebody and they are as you pect them to be. ey are as you hope they will be and yo-yo m is one of those rare people. every time come in hispace i'm literally humbled jt by being in his presence. he is everything. u know that about his music. here it is. it is finally o. he has been playing the cello for 50 years now. here it is. $50 years touchwn box." everytng - "50 years outside the box." erything hhas everut to tape. good to see you man up next, a special performance from yo-yo mand gabriel.
[applause] >> f more information on today's show, visit tavis iley on pbs.org. david patterson that's nt time. we'll see yothen. >> there are so ny things wamart is looking forward to doing, like helping people le better. but mostly wre looking forward to helping bld stronger counities and relaonships. because with your help, the best is y to come.